City officials shut down packed Montreal terrace on busy Grand Prix weekend

By Kelsey Patterson

A Montreal restaurant packed with customers on one of the busiest weekends of the year was ordered to close its terrace Friday night – and send those diners packing – by city officials who said it was not up to code.

That was the scene around 9 p.m. at Ferreira Café, a Portuguese restaurant on Peel Street, according to an emotional social media video by Groupe Ferreira director of operations Sandra Ferreira.

It all happened on the Friday of the Canadian Grand Prix, historically one of the most profitable weekends for restaurateurs in Montreal.

In a more than seven-minute-long, tear-filled Instagram video, Ferreira questions the timing of the decision, calling it “disgusting” and “cruel.”

“I’m ashamed for my city, I’m ashamed it’s happening in front of our customers,” she says in the video.

“There were 12 firefighters, if not more, who surrounded me, who surrounded the terrace. It’s disgusting, I’m so ashamed. I look at the tourists, people I know, who are looking at this.

“It doesn’t make sense. I’m outraged.”

The Montreal firefighters’ union, the Association des Pompiers de Montreal, clarified that firefighters were not involved in Friday’s terrace shutdown, which they say was conducted by civilian employees of the Service de securite incendie de Montreal (SIM).

“The confusion comes from the fact that this spectacular operation, called Sentinelle, was carried out by prevention agents, civilian employees, who, unfortunately, wear a uniform similar to that of firefighters,” said the association’s president Chris Ross.

Ross also deplored that firefighters were being “wrongly targeted” by Montrealers online as a result of that similar uniform.

But the union did defend the application of proper safety codes.

“Firefighters cannot remain indifferent to the presence of significant infractions,” the union wrote in a statement. “The Association des Pompiers de Montreal recalled that, in the past, Montreal has experienced tragic events attributable to this type of offence. For the Association, society cannot afford to be lax, especially in times of very high human influx, at the risk of causing disastrous events, or even tragedies.”

Ferreira apologized Saturday afternoon, on her Instagram, for identifying the SIM workers as firefighters.

Plante ‘shaken’ by situation

The SIM officials fined Ferreira because of the non-compliance and allegedly “dangerous conditions” of the terrace. They told her she needed to close either the terrace or the entire restaurant – despite the restaurateur having produced permits and emails showing the terrace was authorized by the city.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says she was “shaken” by Ferreira’s account, adding terraces on Peel Street would be reopening Saturday.

“The SIM teams have confirmed the compliance of the terraces on Peel Street,” she wrote.

“The responsibility of the (SIM) is to ensure the safety of citizens and visitors. The SIM must ensure constant dialogue and continue the search for solutions to combine security and vitality of the businesses that we all love.”

Terrace troubles

Getting permission to put up a terrace on Peel Street in the first place this summer was already a challenge, according to Ferreira, due to construction work on the street and nearby Sainte-Catherine. She says it took “months of relentlessness, tireless work” for the project to be accepted.

Ferreira’s terrace was initially non-compliant because it was six inches too far into the street. “That’s a bit our fault,” the director of operations explained. Ferreira says that issue was rectified.

“Then two or three weeks ago, a Thursday, the firefighters arrived and told us the tent portion needed to be removed because they were not three metres from the building,” Ferreira recounted. “We tried to explain that we had a permit, special permission from the City of Montreal. He didn’t want to hear about.”

Ferreira explains additional discussions happened with City of Montreal officials at that point, and “ultimately everything was OK.”

“And now they wait until Friday of the Grand Prix to show up, when we have a packed restaurant, and ask everyone to leave the terrace.

“I find it so cruel they waited two or three weeks, I can’t remember, to come close us down, when the restaurant is full, a scene in front of everyone. I just burst into tears.”

Reaction online skewers Montreal

Ferreira’s Instagram post drew the ire of several well-known Montrealers.

“The gestion (management) of mtl is a catastrophe,” wrote renowned chef David McMillan.

“You gotta be kidding me…so so sorry you had to go through that @missferreira,” chef Stefano Faita commented.

“It’s become so embarrassing living here,” wrote entrepreneur Olivier Primeau.

“This is terrible!” said Nadia Saputo.

The Opposition in Montreal jumped on the opportunity to criticize Mayor Valérie Plante.

“In addition to the question of bad timing, I question the lack of leadership of the Ville-Marie district led by the @Val_Plante,” Ensemble Montréal Coun. Abdelhaq Sari wrote on X. “Where is the consultation with all the stakeholders that the mayor is talking about?”

‘It’s so ugly here’

Ferreira feels Friday’s interaction and the larger issues surrounding it — such as ongoing construction downtown — is emblematic of a deep-seated problem in Montreal.

“Everyone is here this weekend and there’s disappointment about nothing happening on the street (Peel),” she said through tears in the video. “And I answer, ‘well no, it’s dangerous with the construction work.’ I try to to be sympathetic and understanding, and convince myself that it’s not a big deal.

“I walk towards the Place Ville-Marie mall, walking on the sidewalk, and I think ‘it’s so ugly here.’ How is this possible? This is Montreal? We’re hosting a Grand Prix. We have the opportunity to host a Grand Prix, and this is it?

“Us business owners are trying to do something that’s worthwhile, without any government subsidies — not that I’m asking for any, that’s not what I’m saying — but we did something wonderful for the city. We put $40,000 into our terrace, if not more, because we want to have an incredible summer and we think it’s worth it. And this is what happens.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today